Who's in and who's out? Always the question this time of year, and this post will focus on the scenarios this week that would answer the "who's out" part.
Prior to Week 14, we had three teams eliminated from the playoffs:
- Atlanta (Week 12), Tampa Bay (Week 13) and Washington (Week 13)
We've already had one team eliminated in Week 14 as the Houston Texans loss on Thursday to Jacksonville sealed their fate (and apparently Gary Kubiak's as well).
So with four teams eliminated to date, there are a handful of teams that can join the Texans as Week 14 playoff outsiders.
First off, NO TEAMS FROM THE AFC can be eliminated this week other than Houston's Thursday night departure. Each of the 4-8 teams that could lose and have others win to put them in jeopardy at 7-9 at best; records that still can claim a playoff spot.
-- BUFFALO can lose and have Miami and the N.Y. Jets win and still be alive. In head to head against Miami at 7-9, Buffalo would have a sweep over the Dolphins, and in a three-way tie with Miami and the N.Y Jets at 7-9, Buffalo would have the best head to head record at 3-1. In addition, a Baltimore win to get them to 7 wins wouldn't kick the Bills out, as Buffalo has a head to head win over Baltimore and the Ravens win is a non-conference win, and the Bills could catch them at 6-6 in the conference (since the Bills' loss is non-conference as well this week).
CLEVELAND could lose and Baltimore could win, creating situation where the best the Browns could do is tie the Ravens at 7-9 (Baltimore would be 6-6 in the conference and Cleveland would end up 5-7). However, they would be able to beat Baltimore in a tiebreaker on record against common opponents (6-6 to 5-7) as they split head to head and would be tied in division. A Miami and a potential N.Y. Jets win wouldn't kick Cleveland out either as, although Miami beat the Browns head to head and would have a better conference record at 6-6 vs. 5-7, Miami could lose out and the Jets could get to 7-9, and Cleveland could beat the Jets on conference record (6-6 to 4-8).
JACKSONVILLE could have been eliminated this week with a loss on Thursday night plus wins by any of Miami, Baltimore, N.Y. Jets, Cleveland or San Diego, but their win keeps them alive for another week as the Jaguars still can get to a solid 7-5 conference record. Also, Jacksonville doesn't have any head to head losses against AFC teams in No. 6 seed leadership positions.
OAKLAND can lose to the N.Y. Jets and also have Miami and Baltimore win, creating a situation where the Raiders can only get to 7-9 but would still have a solid 7-5 conference record. The 7-5 conference record keeps them alive as they could beat Baltimore at 6-6 and, even though Miami losing out would force the Jets to 7-9 and Oakland would have the head to head loss to the Jets, Oakland would have a much better conference record than New York and could use Baltimore in three-way tie to cancel out the head to head loss (the Jets loss to the Ravens). Also, Buffalo could come out of the East at 7-9 as mentioned above and the Raiders would beat them on conference record as well.
The NFC is different with three teams on "elimination watch."
MINNESOTA would be eliminated from playoff contention with:
1) LOSS or TIE
2) Detroit win or tie
Minnesota was actually eliminated from a wild card spot a week ago as they can't catch either Carolina or San Francisco on overall record, but they could still win their division heading into Week 14. However, if the Vikings lose this week, they can't catch the Lions on overall record and would be eliminated. Even if Minnesota ties Baltimore (getting them to 6-8-2 or 7-9 at best), they would lose a tiebreaker to Detroit on division record and they couldn't use Chicago or Green Bay in multi-team ties at 7-9. The Bears would drop out of a multi-team due to a head to head sweep loss to Detroit, and even if they get win against Green Bay to sweep the Packers and tie Detroit on three-way head to head, Minnesota would drop out of that tie. The Packers could get to 6-8-2 as well, but Green Bay is 1-0-1 head to head against Minnesota and the Vikings can't sweep anyone else to create leverage beyond head to head.
If the Vikings win this week, a Detroit win or tie would also eliminate Minnesota. The Detroit win keeps the Vikings out on overall record and a tie creates a similar scenario to the Minnesota tie created above.
ST. LOUIS would be eliminated from playoff contention with:
1) St. Louis loss
2) San Francisco win
3) St. Louis tie + San Francisco tie
A Rams loss to Arizona gets both San Francisco and Arizona to eight wins with a game left between them on Week 17, so St. Louis couldn't catch that game winner. A San Francisco win would also create a situation where the Rams can get to 9-7 but would lose to the 49ers on head to head sweep, and they can't use Arizona in three-way as Arizona would fall out on division record.
NEW YORK GIANTS would be eliminated from playoff contention with (dismissing tie game results as it just looks messy):
1) NY Giants loss + Dallas win + San Francisco win
2) NY Giants loss + Dallas win + Arizona win
3) NY Giants loss + Philadelphia win + San Francisco win
4) NY Giants loss + Philadelphia win + Arizona win
This pains me as a Giants fan, but the G-men would be eliminated with a loss at San Diego, getting them to 8-8 at best, and having either Dallas or Philadelphia win (which would keep the Giants from winning the division since they play each other Week 17) and either a San Francisco or Arizona win (keeping the Giants from catching those teams for the last wild card spot. The Arizona win would force one of San Francisco or Arizona past eight wins when they face each other in Week 17.
I'll update if necessary if any tie games occur.